Yet Another Cruise Ship Overboard Accident; This One Involving a Crew Member

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

SOS man overboard rescue missionThe new cruise year hasn’t exactly started off the way our maritime lawyers had hoped. We were hoping that maybe, just maybe, 2014 would be the year where the cruise industry finally takes a stand against accidents and crimes and puts forth maximum effort to protect both passengers and crew members on their ships. Our attorneys were hoping that perhaps, cruise lines would shift a little of their focus on improving safety technology on their vessels in order to prevent tragic accidents and crimes from happening, or at least to drastically reduce their occurrence rate. With so much new and exciting technology that can help increase maritime safety, including infrared detection systems that can play a vital role in rescuing victims who go overboard, we were really thinking cruise lines might make a significant change for the better.

Unfortunately, 2014 hasn’t started out quite as we had hoped. Instead, there have already been several accidents, including more overboard accidents. Two Royal Caribbean passengers have gone missing in the first week of the New Year. We reported on the matter just last week, when we learned that a 26-year-old Canadian man allegedly “jumped” off the Adventurer of the Seas as the vessel was sailing near Puerto Rico, as per the ship’s video surveillance footage. Then, just days later, another Canadian passenger, this time a 65-year-old man sailing onboard the Independence of the Seas, disappeared in the middle of the night. Police suspect this victim “fell” off the ship, but with the abundance of surveillance cameras on this ship as well as the Adventurer, how is it that we have no concrete knowledge of what happened to him?

Well, perhaps authorities do, they just aren’t releasing the data to the public, although we have a right to know as per the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013. The act requires full disclosure of accidents and crimes onboard cruise lines to both authorities AND the public. Seems there’s a bit of a problem with the implementation of the legislation and adherence to it, but we shouldn’t be shocked, after all, we’ve seen the cruise industry hide reports, fail to fill out reports and alter reports of various accidents and crimes. This particular incident wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.

What’s really striking is the fact that new surveillance systems were installed on the Independence of the Seas. Bryant Integrated Technologies, according to the company website:

“…has completed the installation and commissioning of Nice Systems digital video recording

platform on Independence of the Seas, one of the largest cruise ships in the world.” 

Among the features of these systems, cameras onboard the Independence of the Seas should be able to provide:

  • Live remote monitoring
  • Long term video archiving
  • Facial recognition
  • Sensory reception – and many more

Surely, with such a sophisticated surveillance system, an image of the 65-year-old victim should have been captured…shouldn’t it? We have no idea what’s going on, but hopefully we’ll get some answers soon. Unfortunately, we’ll also have to look into yet ANOTHER cruise ship disappearance. This time, the victim is a crew member.

According to the latest news reports, a search has been initiated for a Filipino crew member working aboard a Princess Cruises ship. The U.S. Coast Guard explains the victim, 34 years old, allegedly jumped overboard from the Grand Princess while the ship was off the coast of Hawaii. He was last seen Monday night.

Princess Cruises spokeswoman Julie Benson explains authorities have footage of the man intentionally jumping, but just like with all the other overboard accidents, where were all the other crew members when this tragedy was unfolding? Do cruise ships just leave decks unattended and unsupervised? It certainly seems that way.

With the incredibly high number of overboard accidents that have already taken place this year alone, one would think cruise lines would station a greater number of crew members in public areas to help prevent these types of incidents – even if they are intentional!

Cruise lines should also keep cameras focused on public areas, especially open decks like the Lido deck and higher, where overboard accidents are highly likely to occur. If there are so many cameras onboard these ships, isn’t anyone actually watching them to make sure everything is going smoothly?

Last year, an Australian couple fell overboard from the Carnival Spirit. Although the ship has allegedly over 600 surveillance cameras, the line issued a statement saying that basically, it’s just impossible to check all the cameras all the time. So then why bother even having them?

With all this technology and no one actually using it, it seems 2014 is headed down the same path as 2013 and even 2012, the year of the infamous Costa Concordia capsizing accident. Though there’s still plenty of time to change the fate of the cruise season, it just doesn’t seem to be a priority for any cruise line whatsoever.